Saturday, October 15, 2016

Raiding The Public Till To Build Adelson Stadium

I have covered stadium subsidy deals across the country and the just-approved $750 million public gift to billionaire Sheldon Adelson and the Oakland Raiders for a $1.9 billion domed stadium off the Strip is one of the biggest rigged fleecing jobs I have seen in my 20 years of reporting on stadium deals.

You have the Las Vegas newspaper owned by Adelson playing cheerleader, so there was no watchdog -- the role the biggest local newspaper should have been playing all along.

(It should be noted that in my first stadium subsidy story at the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this year, the new publisher, Craig Moon, who had just been hired by Adelson, would not allow an anti-Adelson quote by a respected sports economist in my RJ story). 

The review process by a state panel created by Gov. Sandoval and then the state legislators was nothing less than a joke -- yes, a farce because the stadium economic numbers served up by the consultants were laughable.

I call bullshit on their assertion that a new domed stadium would host 46 annual events. I call bullshit on the consultant's assertion that the PR value of having the Oakland Raiders in Las Vegas is worth a value of $100 million a year (as if nobody ever heard of Las Vegas). I call bullshit that a third of the seats will be bought by people who don't even live in the Las Vegas market. And I call bullshit that there will be more than half a billion dollars of economic spending a year thanks to the stadium when a big chunk of that money would have simply been spent on other entertainment options in the Vegas market.

The rush job behind increasing the hotel room charge for the $750 million in public dollars was pathetic. There was no subtle style behind it. No finesse. This deal was rammed through without the proper vetting typically seen with these stadium ripoff deals.

Jon Ralston, the political watchdog of Las Vegas, was the only journalist in the market who consistently hammered away at the absurdity of handing over $750 million to one of America's richest men and a team that's part of a sports league that generates $12 billion in revenue every year.

I chipped in with this story for Desert Companion that highlighted some of the points I'm making here.

I'm hardly the only one who has made these observations.

A bicycle friend in Las Vegas, Kevin Turchin, wrote a fantastic comment on Facebook about this stadium ripoff deal and I am posting it here. Kevin works and lives in the Summerlin area of Las Vegas and is one of the most thoughtful people I know. (And he's one helluva of cyclist. They don't call him the "Turchinator" for nothing.)   

Here's Kevin's words:

The problem is the entire process and our prioritization of community and state needs. 

The process has not been transparent and this has been a rush job from the beginning (your first clue that we are about to get screwed).

The Tesla deal and others have been much more thoroughly vetted than our politicians have done in this case.

In cities across the country this happens again and again where the taxpayers are on the hook for a significant portion of the funding and are not told the true cost of the stadium.

Minnesota's new stadium was finally approved after a an electronic gambling funding mechanism was approved.

The problem was the math was so flawed nobody found out until after everything was approved and in motion.

The taxpayers are now on the hook for more than they were promised.

The math on taxpayer subsidized stadiums is always fuzzy at best and has never been proven to be a net profit for the communities they are built in had the stadiums never been built.

I encourage everyone to read the articles written and posted by Alan Snel who written on these things for years.

Also KNPR had a great two part series on the State of Nevada show describing both sides of the argument so you can be the judge.

Also, look at the recent history of these stadiums. Stadiums are looking to build new stadiums about every 20 years, much shorter than the projected taxpayer obligation even under very aggressive tourism growth applied to this case.

Lastly, like I said before, the city of Oakland is offering very little to the Raiders in terms of subsidy and yet we come out of the gate with $750,000,000?

And we get none of the profits from the stadium?

This is lunacy and we need to look beyond how cool it would be to have our very own football team.

There are other unfunded obligations in our city and state that would be better addressed by this new tax and would go much further in creating a more livable and sustainable place to live and work.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bicycle As Effective Tool To Cover The News

Many people use the bicycle as a health tool.

But I also use my bike as an effective and practical transportation tool to cover the news.

When I was out reporting on the erosion of Indian River County's beaches, I found my bicycle was a great way to slowly see the damage and understand it better if I was racing by in a car.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Re-uniting With The Alps Of Florida

For the first time since I returned to Florida, I had a reunion with my ol' Clermoint pal -- a 41-mile ride carved out of the popular Horrible Hundred ride.

It was 1,900 feet of climbing -- WITH a snapped rear derailleur cable that put me in the shittiest gear to climb. Good thing my Vegas/Nevada mountain climbing past came in handy to muscle up the hills of Buckhill and Sugarloaf Mountain.

Debbie, again, accompanied me for the roller-coaster journey outside Clermont in Lake County, which began with a nice serene jaunt along Lake Minneola.

But after three miles, we began ascending off the pretty lake and began the rolling hills outside Clermont.

I have crafted a wonderful route, that changes every few miles from country roads cutting through old citrus groves, to hilly rollers meandering on the edge of new developments to Florida's classic hill climbs such as Sugarloaf.

At the top of Sugarloaf Mountain Road lives a kind and thoughtful former Air Force man named Harry who I interviewed for past Alps of Florida travel stories who rolls out two orange water coolers to thirsty cyclists.

And there he was today, in action. I have talked to Harry on the phone for interviews but never met the gentleman in person.

Until today.

This area is also known for its triathlete and bike races -- and one was happening today.

One of the steeper roads -- at least it was relatively a short distance -- was Blue Jay Road that leads riders back into the Clermont area.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Biking A Florida Gem -- The Ormond Loop

If you'e a bicyclist from the South Florida or Tampa Bay area, you probably have not heard of one of Florida's bicycle ride gems -- the Ormond Loop about 10 miles north of Daytona Beach.

It's a 25-mile ride through inspiring canopied state forest lands, along the Atlantic Intracoastal and a mere few pedal rotations to the Atlantic and A1A.

There's history along the way, too -- an 1825 sugar and rum factory along the route, and the ruins are there for all to see.

This morning, Debbie and I journeyed up I-95 from Vero Beach, leaving around 5:30 am for the two-hour, 130-mile car trip to Ormond Beach. Around 8 am, we took off from a downtown Ormond Beach city park lot and soaked up the views.

Here's one of my favorite photos from the day.

The lovely feature about the ride is the cycling along the water too.

The route starts on the mainland on the Intracoastal, but then moves to the barrier island side where the Atlantic Ocean is within only a few minutes of riding.

For more information, check out a travel story on the Ormond Loop from 2008.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Still Pedaling Into Red Rock Canyon At 80

So, on my last walk in Vegas this morning, when I breathed in the cool, crisp dry air in Summerlin, he came chugging up Charleston Boulevard on his Schwinn bike, dressed in a gray sweatshirt and wearing gardening gloves with the finger tip cut off as his bicycle gloves.

It was 80-year-old John Taube, a former Teamster truck driver initiated by Jimmy Hoffa in 1956 who I used to see every morning biking his big heavy two-wheel rig from Charleston Blvd. into Red Rock Canyon on State Road 159. I used to be racing down the canyon hill on my road bike back into Summerlin when I would always see John slowly cranking up the grade.

"If you don't stay moving, you die," John told me this morning around 7:30 am as we stopped to catch up.

When I worked at the Las Vegas Review-Journal and lived here, I gave the story of John and how he rides his bike very day 17 miles to View features writer Jan Hogan, who penned this story last year.

John pedals that hefty bike each morning from his home off Town Center, and then heads over to a nearby casino to relax after 3 pm when things are quiet.

I thought to myself, what a nice way to say good-bye to Summerlin and head back to Florida.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bye Vegas, I Miss You Already

It's my last night in Las Vegas and my last bike ride is in the books.

The mixed emotions of happiness over seeing so many close friends and biking some great routes blended with the sadness of leaving such a vibrant place are washing over as I pack my bags for a flight back to Orlando and my home in Vero Beach.

When you say you miss a place, you're really saying you miss the people who bring a smile to your face in that place.

And there's the natural terrain that fills your heart with awe like the Red Rock Canyon around the corner where I used to live and stayed this week.


Of course, Interbike was the main even during the week and the reunion of the bike tribes from around the country is always a wonderful time, including the chance to see bike friends from the Tampa Bay area like David Luppino and Tom Jessup and Steve Toll.

I had the chance to catch up with amazing friends, like the animal doctor-bicycling tourist-man of letters Scott who completed his 1,000th Red Rock Scenic Loop on a bike ride.

Then there's Anthony, another bicycle pal who owns Broadway Pizzeria on Rancho near Charleston and is a strong cyclist too.

Scott and Anthony are just two members of our goofy Pedaling Yentas group. We gab our way up the steep-hilled Red Rock Scenic Loop.

And how about my Las Vegas Academy teacher friend and fellow dark beer connoisseur Liz, who is hanging out with her mom Tizzy at Liz's (and her dad's) new house in central Vegas.


The bicycle week of Interbike was a blast, starting with two days of outdoor demo action at the toasty and dusty environs of Bootleg Canyon park in Boulder City before the week moves to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for the last three days of the week.

And I got a chance to see the new arena I wrote so much about when I was a reporter at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Bike Ride Down Memory Lane With An American Flyers Reunion

My worlds of bicycling and writing collide at Interbike. Last year was especially sweet when I wrote about the Breaking Away reunion of the Cutters at I-bike. And this year, these were the most joyful 840 words of writing when the Las Vegas Sun gave me the chance to write about the reunion of the American Flyers cast.

*    *    *

The bicycling industry's crazy family is wrapping up its annual family reunion called Interbike in Vegas on Friday.

You have the crazy youngins pulling their stunts and tricks on BMX bikes. There's the Baby Boomers making the e-bikes sector a viable category. The rangy older guys with wispy goatees who manufacture and distribute the parts and bikes are out there too. Plus the lean young bucks riding beautifully-constructed road machines..

And one of the nights when they all come together is the Thursday night of Interbike week when there's the annual industry awards dinner.

The fun thing about the bicycle industry is that just about everyone is approachable and they'll give you an honest answer right back to your face. Compared to many industries that are filled with corporate stiffs and phonies, the bicycle world is mostly peppered with many unpretentious people who left that corporate world to work with bicycles.

One of the truly super nice guys in the bicycle industry is Steve Flagg, who created a bike part distribution company called Quality Bicycle Products, or QBP, It distributes bike stuff to more than 5,000 bike shops and I recall that Quality sent boxes of free bike stuff like gloves, socks, T-shirts and caps to the SWFBUD bike shops that I organized for our annual bicycle bash festivals in the Tampa Bay area. We used to hand out all those bike goodies to the festival goers and Flagg's bike stuff probably still lives on in homes across the Tampa Bay area.

Interbike recognized Flaff with a lifetime achievement award and there's no better recipient.

The awards dinner also had Pedal Chic bike shop owner Robin Bylengam whose Greenville, SC bike shop won the women's bike store of the year last year.

She handed out the award to the best women's bike shop this year and Robin has emerged as one of the industry's bright stars.

Robin is a super dynamic woman who wants to help bike shops cater better to women customers.

She's here with awards dinner host Alonzo Bodden, who won the Last Comic Standing third season.

And every industry has a Ray Keener, a super friendly guy who writes about the industry and has a good common sense approach about how the industry products fits the needs of the consumer.

Ray is the kind of guy who knows someone in every sector of the bicycle industry and talks in every day language about bicycling to people outside the bicycle world.

He was also one of the night's award presenters.